Transition Report 2013 Stuck in transition?

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Facts at a glance

70% Global proportion of countries which had democratic institutions in 2012, compared with 30 to 40 per cent from 1960 to 1990.

INCOME IN 1992 is correlated with levels of democracy in 2012 in a global sample.

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94% of countries with average per capita income above US$ 10,000 held free and competitive elections in 1999.

BY 2000 all constituent democracies of the former Yugoslavia had become full democracies.

Markets and democracy

Explaining democracy

Democracy may not be inevitable, but it has been gaining ground steadily over time. Representative democracy has spread pervasively around the world over the last 200 years. In the first half of the 19th century it was limited to a few Swiss cantons and several states in the north-eastern United States. The European revolutions of 1848 sparked a prolonged wave of democratisation that would peak in 1921 with almost three-fifths of all sovereign countries being democracies. A second, shorter wave occurred just after the end of the Second World War.

Between 1960 and 1990 the proportion of the world’s countries that had democratic institutions fluctuated between 30 and 40 per cent. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the figure rose to more than 60 per cent by the beginning of the 21st century, and by 2012 it exceeded 70 per cent.

This global expansion is depicted in Chart 2.1, which shows the proportion of countries classified as democracies by the Polity IV dataset over the period 1800-2012 and the average global Polity score for each year.

Chart 2.1

Source: Polity IV.
Note: The vertical grey line marks the year 1989.